Resolution on Women’s Movement : Challenges and Tasks

multiple instances of hasty sterilisation operations performed under insanitary conditions against women’s will in Bihar, funded by the UK’s DfID, resulting in a large number of deaths and mutilation of women.

42. The Government and pharmaceutical companies promote dubious and dangerous injectable contraceptives like Depo-Provera and Net-en, playing with women’s health in the process. India’s poor women are used as guinea pigs for a variety of pharmaceutical experiments, and women, especially those from vulnerable poor and dalit/adivasi backgrounds, are being subjected to vaccine research and clinical trials without informed consent. For instance, recently, in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, 7 adivasi girls between 10-14 years old, died after being injected with the trial vaccine for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

43. Alarmingly, India has emerged as a destination for commercial surrogate motherhood – whereby poor Indian women rent out their wombs to rich Indian and foreign parents for payment. ‘Commissioning’ parents often demand surrogate mothers of fair skin and ‘high’ caste. The surrogate mothers in question, at present, find their lives and health at great risk, in service of an industry that exploits their poverty and desperation. Rather than putting a stop to this practice until a wider debate on the ethical dimensions of surrogacy can be conducted with the participation of women’s groups, the Indian Government is promoting the practice and has proposed a Bill to legalise and ‘regulate’ it.

44. Struggles of homosexuals and sexual minorities for rights and dignity and against discrimination, have asserted themselves in recent times. In spite of a landmark verdict by the Delhi High Court in 2009 decriminalising homosexuality, the Government has yet to take any steps to do away with Section 377 that discriminates against same-sex relationships. Scrapping of Section 377 will open the avenues for these groups (such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and including hijras) to demand greater protection, rights, and dignity.

45. Women’s Commissions in states as well as the National Women’s Commission have come into being thanks to women’s struggles. But, stacked with political appointees and strapped for funds, hands, and powers, they are far from fulfilling their purpose. It is urgent that the NCW and State Women’s Commissions be given statutory powers, and heads and members of women’s commissions be selected based on their experience in the women’s movement, and in consultation with women’s organisations, rather than based on political patronage. Women’s commissions should also be made accountable to the women’s movement: they should be obligated to hold regular consultative meetings with women’s organisations.

Initiatives and Tasks of the Party and the Women’s Organisation

46. Historically, struggle against oppression, discrimination and humiliation, for equality, freedom and dignity has been the main plank of our party and our women’s organisation, with its main base among rural and urban poor. This movement has mobilised thousands of poor peasant and labouring women (overwhelmingly from the oppressed castes) in militant struggles against feudal oppression and exploitation and raised this struggle to the level of a political movement, dealing body blows to structures of feudal-kulak power both as part of revolutionary peasant movement and in its own right as communist women’s movement. Party leaders like Manju Devi have been killed by the Ranveer Sena for their role in mobilizing women against the feudal-patriarchal forces. This remains its great distinctive feature among women’s organizations in India and we must maintain and further develop this emphasis.

47. Today, too, struggles of rural and urban peasant and working class women against all kinds of violence and exploitation remains the mainstay of AIPWA’s work. It has also been active in struggles against state repression and custodial violence, especially against AFSPA and Operation Green Hunt, and has spearheaded struggles for women’s equal wages and rights, mobilizing women MNREGA workers and agricultural labourers.